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Author Topic: The disturbing high incidence of the faulty “taken cared of” usage  (Read 696 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: January 18, 2017, 11:33:17 PM »

Sometime last December, my reading of the day’s newspapers was brought to a halt by this jaw-dropping piece of English: “Therefore, the government should recognize the film industry as an essential commodity. It should be taken cared of so that it flourishes and gives back beneficial returns to a caring government.”    

We’ll first focus on the statement’s erroneous use of “taken cared of” and on its inappropriate use of the clause “it flourishes and gives back beneficial returns to a caring government” as a simple fact, after which we can fine-tune the statement’s overall semantics and construction.

The phrase “take care of,” as we all know, is an idiom that means “to attend to or assume responsibility.” In that phrase, “take” is a verb and “care” is a noun, and people usually have no problem using it in the simple tenses: “My secretary takes care of all the office details.” “A lawyer took care of the inheritance papers.” “Don’t worry about your visas because I’ll take care of them.”

It is when people use “take care of” in its past participle form that the problem usually arises. In fact, when I made a quick check with Google as I wrote this column, it reported some 39,900 entries erroneously using “taken cared of” for the past participle of that phrase. Some samples: “All concerns, down to the payment of electricity bills and utilities, are taken cared of by the professional hotel management operator.” “They are taken cared of by the [name of school] family to grow and develop as persons, learners and scholars.”

(The surprising thing is that among the Google entries, which are drawn from all over the world, there was an abnormally high incidence of “taken cared of” usage among Filipino writers, particularly in journalism and academe. Could it be that sometime in the recent past, some local English grammar authority had inadvertently taught and spread that wrong usage among the populace?)  

Although substantial, the incidence of “taken cared of” usage was thankfully only about 2.6 percent of the 1,540,000 Google entries that used the correct past participle form of the phrase: “taken care of.” Two of the entries: “We could not increase spending for any programs until our core programs for veterans and the poor were taken care of.” “I live in the Netherlands and have taken care of my dad for years.”

Remember now that most verbs typically take the suffix “-ed” to form past participles, as in the past participle “finished” for the regular verb “finish.” The irregular verb “take,” however, takes the past participle “taken.” Thus, to form the past participle of the idiom “take care of,” it follows that only the verb “take” will inflect by changing to the past participle “taken.” The noun “care” will remain unchanged because in English, nouns don’t inflect with changes in tense; only verbs do. The correct form in the past participle of “take care of” is therefore not “taken cared of” but “taken care of.”

This should be the form of the idiom in the second sentence of the faulty statement presented at the beginning of this column. Before revising that statement, however, we also need to rectify its wrong use of the clause “it flourishes and gives back beneficial returns to a caring government.” That clause obviously shouldn’t be stated as a simple fact, only as something to be wished for or something probable, and for this reason it has to use the modal “can” to indicate that probability.
Now that all these concerns have been taken care of, we are now in a position to come up with this grammatically, structurally, and semantically better version of that statement: “Therefore, the government should recognize local filmmaking as an essential industry, one that should be taken care of so it can flourish and bring beneficial returns to the country.” (January 15, 2007)

This essay,519th in the series,appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times in its January 15, 2007 issue, © 2007 by Manila Times Publishing. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 11:49:39 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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